Beauty

Photo Courtesy of Anthony Deeying

A Skin-Whisperer’s Guide to a Fantastic Complexion

With busy skin clinics in both Dusseldorf and Munich, Barbara Sturm, M.D. started her career in molecular orthopedics, but has evolved into a specialist in aesthetic medicine and non-surgical skin-rejuvenating treatments. She famously developed a “blood facial,” where healing factors from a patient’s own blood are re-injected into skin, rejuvenating it in much the way PRP treatments help heal joints and injuries in orthopedics and sports medicine.

Based on her clinical experience, Sturm developed a “blood cream” and has now followed it with a full skincare line that incorporates ingredients like hyaluronic acid and the botanical purslane extract.

Unlike much of the conventional medical community, Sturm is adamantly clean and nontoxic in her approach to topical products. She maintains that anything that causes inflammation—from potentially toxic synthetic chemicals to deep, skin-abrading lasers—works against healthy skin. Here, a look at her clinical practice and research into skin, aging, diet, supplements, skincare, injectables, lasers, threading, and more:

A Q&A with Barbara Sturm, M.D.

Q

How did you become interested in nontoxic skincare/concerned about toxins in conventional skincare?

A

In my twenties, I had problems with dry skin and small breakouts. I tried every product on the market and got facials every three weeks, but nothing could make my skin fundamentally healthy and glowing.

Lots of so-called “luxury skincare” turned out to be full of toxic and harsh ingredients and fragrance, and left my skin feeling like it was burning.

Q

How did you decide to start making your own?

A

When I made the jump from anti-inflammatory orthopedics to aesthetics and created the blood facial, I got the idea to try to create a cream with no toxic ingredients that works with the body’s own healing factors. My patients were always asking me for recommendations, so I’d tried everything that was out there—and never found the right solution. To create that first blood cream, I worked with anti-inflammatory scientists from Harvard, and the Universities of Miami and Pittsburgh on both ingredient science and anti-aging cellular protection. I called the cream “MC1”—and it was a big success, with me (I never had skin problems again), and with my patients. But it took more years of research and clinical testing before I felt my full range was ready.

For both the blood cream and the product line that followed, I left out any irritants that could cause inflammation, which is one of the main factors in aging.

Q

If inflammation is at the root of much of aging, do you believe that skincare with known irritants—say, in chemical sunscreens—can prematurely age the skin?

A

Of course! Fighting irritation is at the heart of my work—and my skincare line. Irritants, whether caused by chemicals and ingredients, food, nutritional deficiencies, or the external environment all cause inflammation, and inflammation is one of the worst culprits for aging.

Q

How important are factors like diet and lifestyle for skin?

A

You are what you eat. Everything you put into your system shows eventually on our organs—and the skin is our biggest organ. It’s interesting: Our skin is the only organ we see directly, so if we break out after eating something unhealthy, what is happening to the organs we can’t see, inside?

A healthy lifestyle and especially a healthy diet benefits every organ, including skin. I find breakouts now are mostly caused by pollution, environmental-, travel-, work-, and food-related stress, as well as by hormones. So if someone has acne-prone skin, I like them to get their blood checked for lactose intolerance, hormone levels, and allergies; they should also check all ingredients in their skincare routine and take out anything that contains aggressive ingredients.

People do not always get what they need from their diets. In general, there is a correlation between levels of certain vitamins and botanicals and skin quality: If your vitamin A is depleted, for example, your cell regeneration will be poor and the result will be dry, flaky skin.

Q

Why is purslane extract such a key ingredient for you?

A

I was intrigued by telomerase activation—telomerase has been termed the “fountain of youth enzyme.” Stimulation of telomerase production has been shown in a Harvard animal study to not only stop the aging process, but to reverse it. Studying the research on telomerase led me to the natural super-compound portulaca oleracea, or purslane, a potent herb with many benefits.

In addition to up-regulating telomerase, purslane turns out to be one of the richest sources on earth of omega-3 fatty acids, a-linolenic acid, and antioxidants, including tocopherol, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, and glutathione. Clinical trials of purslane have shown it to have dramatic anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, wound-healing, and anti-fungal properties. In one trial, 83 percent of patients saw partial to complete clinical improvement from a chronic skin inflammation disease after six weeks of oral purslane supplementation.

Q

What about hyaluronic acid?

A

Based on my experiences with injecting hyaluronic acid into my patients—I knew firsthand all about its great water-binding abilities. So I designed a serum with hyaluronic acid in different molecular weights to optimize skin hydration.

Q

Did you start from one hero product and move out from there? What was the process?

A

The line has grown gradually, but organically. For example, I created a serum for my patients to minimize the appearance of redness after treatments in my clinic. Even many patients with more serious skin diseases responded well to it; it’s also great post-treatment, after waxing, and for dry lips.

Q

How does the blood cream itself work?

A

The MC1 blood cream consists of healing factors that are generated from the patient’s own blood and added into a nontoxic base cream that we make in our own pharmacy, which does not contain mineral oils, fragrances, parabens, or paraffins. The healing factors are obtained with a procedure that I helped develop in collaboration with scientists from Harvard and the Universities of Miami and Pittsburgh. After a small blood draw, the cells are stimulated to keep on producing the protein healing factors until we have a 147 times higher concentration of them than what we usually have in our blood. That is to say, the same factors in your blood that heal a cut on your finger are stimulated to 147 times their normal potency. It is as clean as the rest of the line. The cream is only available in my clinics, so pretty soon after news of it went viral, I wanted something I could make available worldwide and not only to the patients who would come see me. And even beyond that, I had my own patients asking me for a complete regimen—another big reason I created a skincare line.

Q

How do you see topical skincare interacting with more direct dermatological interventions, like injectables, lasers, etc.?

A

As a doctor, I want to take care of the skin on all levels to achieve a holistic result—healthy, beautiful skin that makes my patients happy. So in the deeper layers of skin, I work with injecting large, volumizing levels of hyaluronic filler acid with large molecular weight to reshape the appearance of the face after structure is lost due to gravity and aging. I inject hyaluronic acid with smaller molecular weight for a deeply moisturizing effect.

Cosmetically, I use a combination of micro-needling and my hyaluronic serum to replenish the skin’s moisture reservoirs and revitalize the complexion. On top of that, I use a combination of microdermabrasion, my serums, and other products to stimulate fresh-looking, clean, nourished, glowing skin.

Q

Are you interested in the new dermatological threading?

A

Yes, I use it on many patients. It’s a great addition to fillers and Botox. I think it adds an extra pull without adding more volume.

Q

Is there a particular type of laser you use the most?

A

I am not a big fan of lasers, so we offer only a very light version: the Clear + Brilliant, a very gentle laser that treats hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and big pores. In general, the overuse of lasers can cause collagen damage and inflammation, so I believe in moderate use and recommend against aggressive treatments like CO2 lasers, which take off the upper layers of the skin completely and have a high risk of side effects like infections, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and scarring.

Q

What technologies or techniques—skincare-wise or for in-office treatment—are you most excited about?

A

Right now I am intrigued by the opportunities stem cell has to offer; stem cells are produced by your own body, and we can stimulate the bone marrow to flush those cells into the bloodstream, where they can then be extracted and used for treatments. I am currently working on a treatment in which stem cells are re-injected into the skin to stimulate the growth of new skin cells. It’s basically a companion to the body’s-own-blood treatment I’ve already developed. For now, it’s only offered in our Munich office, and the effects so far are great: The skin becomes more elastic—the stem cells can become any cell you stimulate them to become, so we create new skin tissue to support the skin and rejuvenate it. We’ve treated a couple of patients and it is working well, but it still requires more testing.

Q

What’s the biggest mistake people make with their skin, in your opinion?

A

People are overdosing on too many different products without paying attention to the ingredients inside—or the interplay between those ingredients. This leads to skin conditions like breakouts, perioral dermatitis, or enlarged pores, which are all the result of inflammatory processes.

Research cited:

Orthopedic surgeon-turned-skin-specialist Barbara Sturm, M.D. began her medical career at the Centre for Molecular Orthopedics in Dusseldorf, Germany. After developing cutting-edge anti-inflammatory treatments for professional athletes, she became interested in the connection between inflammation and aging. Fourteen years later, her clean, nontoxic, high tech skincare line is rooted in supercharging the skin with hyaluronic acid, a compound we lose in skin as we age.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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